Nick Viner is co-founder of Circle Square. This is the third chapter in a career that began with 20 years at The Boston Consulting Group, and then shifted to not-for-profit as he established and built a ground-breaking new cultural and community centre in London, called JW3, for the Jewish community and for London as a whole.
“In many ways, so much of what I have done in my career, and experienced in life, was preparation for Circle Square.
“Working as a consultant for some of the largest and most demanding companies in the world taught me the importance of professionalism and on insisting always on the highest possible standards. An early and unexpected client was Save the Children, and that triggered my interest in the world of not-for-profit, first as a consultant, later as a serial trustee. It was not at all like the commercial world where rational argument and if needed, applying money to a problem, generally yields results; here, I learnt that passion for a cause and deeply held beliefs trumped other motivations. Getting to a result needed a very different set of skills…
“Later I started some professional development with actors and acting coaches at the TAI Group in New York. It was an eye-opening experience, and pushed me to work out and articulate what’s most important to me, and what fundamentally guides how I think and what I do. (Many years on, this has become Pathfinder, a core part of Circle Square’s Planning Your Next Chapter programme.)
“What I did with TAI encouraged me to make a significant change of direction: at the age of 45, at least 10 years sooner than expected, I took a leap into the unknown, and moved from my secure and lucrative career track into the uncertain and highly risky project of creating JW3 – which involved a charity, a start-up, and a surprising amount of opposition. It was a challenging time. But we had a vision, and ultimately, we realised it. While it’s not always true that if you believe in something enough, you will make it happen, in this case, happily, it was.
“Later, I came to realise just how unusual this transition was. And reflected on how little support I had at the time, beyond warm words from colleagues. Finding a better way to do this inspired the creation of our Planning Your Next Chapter programme, where we help those coming to the end of their time with their firms to explore future options and plan ahead, with expert support.
“I was introduced to my business partner, Noam, about 5 years ago, and we started to plan Circle Square. I was immediately drawn to Noam’s charm, directness and can-do attitude. He never ceases to surprise me when he asks someone for the apparently impossible and manages to get it from them! His vision of Circle Square as an organisation that can help change people’s lives in a material way, and hopefully, over time, change society too, was extremely appealing, and helped crystallise my own views of what we can achieve together.
If we could create a new community of purposeful people with interests they could share, with a desire to meet and engage with others, to continue to learn, to contribute, to give and to get, and ultimately to harness what they have built up over their lives so far for the good of others and the benefit of society, what’s not to like?!
- What 3 words best describe you?
Tenacious, imaginative, demanding
- If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Creating JW3, which has welcomed more than 1.5m visitors from many, many different backgrounds since it opened.
- Which person (dead or alive) would you most like to invite to dinner?
Sir Christopher Wren, someone who managed to turn his amazing vision for London into reality and leave behind a wonderful legacy.
- How has age strengthened your advantage?
I realise I only need to do things I want to do and enjoy doing, with people I want to spend time with.